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Posted on Sep 4, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 019 – Attacking in the Blind – Movement to Contact

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland


A movement to contact culminates in one of three outcomes if you can maintain contact.  These are: the hasty attack, the hasty defense, or the meeting engagement.  In the event of a hasty attack, the enemy ‘goes to ground’ and you must attack him to remove him.  In a hasty defense, you ‘go to ground’ to exploit decisive terrain and thus, force him to attack.   The last outcome is the meeting engagement, which may occur when the opponents are aware of each other and both sides decide to attack simultaneously.  No matter how the opposing forces make contact, seizing the initiative is the overriding imperative.  Rapid execution of battle drills and actions on contact accrue the initiative.  The first to take decisive action is likely to gain the advantage.


Organization for Combat

A unit executing a movement to contact organizes to find, fix, and finish the enemy.  In order to set the conditions for success, it is recommended you organize your three forces, each with a distinctive task.  These are:

1) The Security Force finds the enemy. 

2) The Advanced Guard fixes the enemy. 

3) The Main Body finishes the enemy.  If you’re smart, you’ll also designate flank and rear security elements. Let’s address each in regards to a typical mechanized battalion task force.

Security Force.  The scout platoon or a company team acts as the forward security element.  They are often reinforced with artillery, mortars, engineers, air defense, and an air controller.  It’s their job to recon in advance of the friendly unit and to find the enemy, then guide the rest of the unit to the fight.

Advance Guard.  A reinforced company team serves the role of advance guard.  The company team is a task-organized combined arms unit that leads and provides early warning to the main body.  The advance guard operates forward in order to ensure its uninterrupted advance by reducing obstacles, creating passage lanes, repairing roads and bridges, and finding bypasses.  The advance guard protects the main body from a surprise attack and fixes the enemy to protect the main body once it is committed to action.  The advance guard should have equal or superior mobility to the main body.  Mechanized infantry, cavalry, and armored units are the best for use in an advance guard. 


The advance guard moves quickly and aggressively while remaining within supporting range of the main body.  It forces the enemy to withdraw or destroys small enemy groups before they disrupt the main body.  When the advance guard encounters large enemy forces or heavily defended areas it takes aggressive action to develop the situation and fix the enemy force.  The advance guard reports the location, strength, disposition, and composition of the enemy and tries to find its weakness in order for the main effort to exploit. 

Main Body.  This is where the majority of your combat power and capability resides.  It is your main effort and its purpose is to close with and defeat the enemy in accordance with its relative combat power capability. If the enemy it too large, then the main body fixes it for a larger friendly unit to defeat.  It will ‘finish’ any unit it can.  The main body reacts to the actions and reports of the security force and the advance guard.  The main body includes all forces not assigned security tasks.  You should select a part of the main body as the reserve.  The size of the reserve is based on the amount of uncertainty.  As we have discussed earlier: the more unclear the situation; the larger your reserve. 

Control Measures

You should use a minimum number of control measures in order to provide maximum freedom for your subordinates.  Never the less, there are controls you should emplace such as the designation of an area of operations (AO) with left, right, front, and rear boundaries.  You can further divide the AO into subordinate unit AO’s.

The operation starts from a line of departure (LD) at a time specified in your operations order.  You control your movement by using phase lines (PL) and checkpoints (CP) in order to synchronize movement and combat action between units and in relation to the terrain.  You can control the depth of movement by employing a limit of advance (LOA) or a forward boundary.  Below is an example of a brigade movement to contact control measures:


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  1. One correction on Item 6:

    It was Union cavalry general John Buford who fought the
    delaying action against Heth’s division on July 1, 1863, not

  2. Nice Post ! www

  3. What are the control measure for counter attack during assault and what all are the points to be consider for contingency planning of offensive operation.